I got my second email this morning from The Washington Post about how to cope with the mental challenges brought by our time in history. There is a lot of stuff there, but one thing I know from my own life is right on:

“…lots of small practices can help you move forward and recover a sense of time … Alvord (clinical psychologist) said, you accept what’s out of your control and look for what’s in your control, even if it’s as small as taking a walk.”

I think I learned as a little kid that if I just take a walk (bike ride, run) things will improve, whatever things are. There was another good thing in this morning’s email regarding mental habits that deepen peoples’ depression and feelings of hopelessness:

  • The “I can’t” habit. You automatically decide you can’t meet a new challenge. You give up before even trying.
  • The catastrophizing habit. You see disaster everywhere, and fall into what ifs. You spend a lot of energy panicking.
  • The all-or-nothing habit. If something doesn’t go just one way, it’s wrong. You’re irritated with yourself and others.

    These are countered with challenge questions:
  • The “I can’t” habit: “What is the evidence that I can’t do it?”
  • The catastrophizing habit: “What are five other things more likely to happen?”
  • The all-or-nothing habit: “What are some possibilities that fall between the extremes?”

Today’s newsletter thing was great — I guess I’m a fan of behavioral psychology which this whole thing illustrates. When I was having counseling myself, that was my therapist’s approach. She was perfect for me because I’m one of those, “That’s all very interesting, but what do I DO???” kind of people. Deep down I believe that we are what we do, the culmination of our choices and actions. I just wanted to make choices that worked. I wasn’t trying to expunge any deeply buried demons or get to the bottom of anything. I knew that dark icky stuff wasn’t going away. I wanted to learn how to live with it.

Still…I dunno. I think “sinking spells” are a normal part of life in any moment, “normal” or whatever this is. Maybe it’s all how we feel about our sinking spells, how well we’re able to ride them out and move forward. Some time ago — when I was still teaching Business Communication — I had an epiphany about the word “positive.” The text book talked about “good news” and “bad news” messages. Simply good news is what the audience wants to read/hear and bad news what the audience doesn’t want to read/hear.

It was challenging for my students to get that simple point, that good or bad depended on the audience’ desires, not theirs. A good news message started out with good news, ‘Yay! You get a refund!” a bad news message started with goodwill, an acknowledgement of the humanity of the audience, “We appreciate your business” or “Thank you for your inquiry” — something like that. Students had this idea of “justice” (“They want something they can’t have! They read the signs! Off with their heads!”) so it was challenging to teach this. Shouldn’t have been, but it was there I learned that we can’t take empathy for granted. Some people need to be taught.

The closing of both types of messages was supposed to be positive, and positive meant something that pointed to a future relationship. Positive didn’t mean up-beat or cheery, but something that pointed to a future that was better than the present, essentially the “light at the end of the tunnel.” In a business message like those my students were learning it might be, “Here’s a coupon for 10% off a future purchase” or “We hope to do business with you in the future.” Basically saying, “This, too, shall pass.”

Featured photo: For various reasons, I had a bad day yesterday. At one point, I started to cry. Teddy and Bear were very worried and Bear stayed worried (as is her nature) until I went to bed. The photo is Bear taking care of me in the evening. She can’t make me soup when I’m sick, drive me to the doc if I’m hurt, or offer any other concrete help, but when it comes to moral support, faith and affection, it’s pretty hard to beat a livestock guardian dog.

Color’s Determined Boldness

I recently decided to participate more fully in our pandemic by letting The Washington Post send me a week of advice/activities for dealing with the “lockdown.” I got the first one today. One thing it said struck me. It relates to time.

“…attention, emotion, stress and novelty, researchers say, are all related to how we perceive time.” 

The article goes on to say, “… time, as we perceive it, is “extremely malleable,” said Martin Wiener, an assistant professor of psychology at George Mason University. It acts just like a sense does, he said. And like hearing or sight, it can be tricked… Factors like attention, emotion, stress and novelty…are all related to how we perceive time. Uncertainty, grief and isolation have stretched them all.

Time is a weird thing. Some belief systems say there is no time; that it’s an illusion, and what we have is duration. I like that idea, though it’s admittedly a little difficult for me to wrap my head around.

Living alone and retired in a small mountain town is at least half-way toward a “lockdown” so, I can’t say I’ve really experienced the “timewarp” of the pandemic. That’s fine with me. My experience of it is mostly through my awareness of the deadly, political blustering of our Asshole in Chief balanced by scientific information from the ambient world and the wisdom of my state’s governor.

“On call with campaign staff, President Trump says people are tired of hearing about coronavirus. ‘People are saying whatever. Just leave us alone. They’re tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots…Fauci is a nice guy. He’s been here for 500 years’.”

The pandemic’s effect on my daily life has been through my understanding that it’s scary and my resolution not to get sick. I also feel the reality that no one is OK right now. The “ordinary” tragedies of life are not on lockdown. People are still going to struggle with their lives, personal problems, dread diseases. COVID 19 is like a glaze an artist might paint over an entire painting to give it a particular color “cast,” or the sobering darkness left by time on a work of dazzling color.

I enjoy watching Waldemar Januszczak’s art history documentaries. I get to see paintings and places, and I learn a little something. 😉 Last night I was watching his biographical piece on Manet. There was a painting — The Old Musician — being restored at the National Gallery. Waldemar said to the restorer, “Wow! Is this the same painting?”

“Yes,” she said. “We’ve removed all the yellow varnish. Now we have all these colors.” Since the viewer probably had no memory of the painting before, the film showed the restoration process in progress at one point. I was moved by the determination of color.

P.S. I don’t think I’ll ever use the word “hardihood.” Sorry. It’s just kind of weird.


I guess any artist who lives in the San Luis Valley will sooner or later do a painting of a Sandhill Crane. Mine has been an image in my mind since this past March when, on a gray day, I saw a gray crane walk on the winter-gray grass in a small forest of small willow trees. Cranes are seldom solitary so that was something, too. It was an image so quiet and so personal to me — no one else was there. The monochromatic day was one of the last slumbering days of winter.

This has been percolating in my imagination since then. So, I went at the big canvas (4′ x 3 ‘/121.92 cm x 91.44 cm) and altered the underpainting a while back. It was blue sky and golden fields and blue mountains. Who’s surprised? 😉

Then the crane image. I have done a couple of drawings but the perspective/point of view kept bugging me, but now I think I got it. I had to draw it so I could use the drawing for the painting — it was so much fun.

Then, as I was drawing, an easel showed up on Facebook for sale. It is the VERY easel for which I’ve long yearned and couldn’t afford. Last Sunday, my friend gave me $100 for the horse painting, and that’s what the easel costs. An added wonder is my friend’s husband was an artist but is now blind and can’t paint. He mentioned last weekend he wished he had his old easel to give me. Well, I guess in a way that is happening. And, I get to drive up to the mountains to get it. 🙂

Tales from the front — Half-fast Cycling Club

A report by a man working in a COVID-19 ward…

I learned a lot from a two week tour of duty in the COVID-19 unit. First is the unpredictability of this disease. Details will be obscured so that no patients can be identified. Pronouns will be “they”, “them”, or “the patient”. I am not a doctor, but I play one on TV. A few numbers […]

Tales from the front — Half-fast Cycling Club


I was driving home from the shelter with Teddy, I’d just gotten him, ostensibly to foster (ha ha) Eric Clapton started singing from Mohammed’s Radio. Little Teddy, still with his puppy coat, sat in the seat next to me. Teddy is absurdly friendly and manically alert. He was hiding his nervousness (fear?) in a little coat of cuteness. For some reason I started singing along with the radio, and Teddy’s little ears perked up. He cocked his head, he looked at me. I put my hand on his little head and I kept singing. In the back of my mind were the words to the song. Promises. I’d just made one.

How had Teddy — the cutest smartest little dog ever born — ended up tied up and abandoned outside a convenience store? Who would not want him? I thought of the nice lady who’d rescued him and then brought him to the shelter in case someone was looking for him.

I didn’t know it, but only a few weeks later my 15 year old barky black dog, Dusty T., would have a stroke, and I would have to put him down. I didn’t think that in Teddy I was bringing home a pal and a job for Bear who was going to mourn that big black dog as much as I would. I didn’t know any of this.

Teddy took to Dusty right away and Dusty protected that little dog when he thought Bear was playing too rough. Here’s a video of Dusty protecting his little “son”, hopefully, you can see. I couldn’t download it from Facebook 😦

As I drove home, I kept singing. Teddy clearly liked it. Now, I always turn the radio to some soft rock stuff when I’m in the car with Teddy and if it’s humanly possible, I sing.


I should have waited to write the blog post I wrote yesterday, when I came home from a beautiful walk with Bear. Definitely fit today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt. Those glorious moments are pretty uncommon these days, and this morning I had to laugh. When I grabbed my jeans to put on, I noticed I’d sat in bird shit yesterday. Glory is grounded in shit after all, something reinforced when “traffic” (three cars) on the “highway” to the Refuge was slowed by a tractor pulling a manure spreader into a hay field.

Teaching “art” to the kids has inspired me to think about my early years in school. I’ve realized that a LOT of what “they” were doing to us had nothing much to do with what they told us they were teaching us. Neither of the kids writes — prints — halfway decently and the little girl doesn’t even write legibly. Seeing this at first I was shocked and a little worried then it hit me.


I thought about all the hours in school we just sat there with special lined paper and practiced printing letters, then, in second grade, we learned to “…write like grownups” — cursive. As I watch the little girl struggle with her hands when she does anything, I think about how they taught us to control and use the small muscles in our hands. We THOUGHT we were learning to write and it was annoying that we had to keep practicing, but that wasn’t what “they” were doing at all. I thought about how these amazing tools at the ends of our arms contributed to make us human. I wondered if our word “man” came from the Latin word, “manibus,” or “hand.” (I don’t really care what the answer is.)

A person can think a lot of things watching kids make ghosts from tissue paper and egg cartons.

Church of the Big Empty

I don’t know what it is that makes one walk a walk and another walk a spiritual experience, but I think it has to do with my attitude, the ambient air temperature, the wonders of things around me. Still it’s a mysterious concoction, and I see no point in analyzing it very much. But today Bear and I got to attend the Services of the Big Empty.

I didn’t even want to come home. 🙂

There were hundreds of cranes. Having that amazing and angelic choir around is always inspiring. And there was a strange coincidence. As I walked along thinking, “Hmm, should I give Bear a DNA test? I don’t really KNOW she’s an Akbash dog. Maybe she IS a Siberian husky/Pyrenees mix.” That was the shelter’s guess back in the day when I adopted Bear, who was four months old. Time has shown me she has no Siberian Husky and I would know. I’ve had five. Just then, a car pulled up along side us. A nice woman was driving and to my utter surprise, Bear’s double was looking happily out the partly open back window.

The woman and I started talking but I was really mostly interested in the dog (duh). I asked, “He’s beautiful. Does he have blue eyes?”

“No,” she said, and told me his story. He was rescued from a hoarding situation in Colorado Springs, fostered for a while and then she adopted him from the Humane Society. “They say he’s a husky/Pyrenees mix. He’s 7 months old.”


He wanted out so bad and I wanted to meet him. I could tell Bear wanted to meet him too, but the woman was driving a brand new expensive car and yeah, Bear would scratch it up. Then the puppy began talking to me in Siberian Husky, one of the languages in which I’m fluent.

“Definitely husky,” I said, and answered him. That was a mistake because he almost crawled out the window. The beautiful big, white puppy’s name was “Anjo,” Portuguese for “angel.” His name at the shelter had been “di Angelo.” He was perfectly named.

The woman wanted to see cranes, and I told her where I’d been seeing them. They were flying over us at that very moment, but you don’t see as much from a car and she couldn’t see them. I also suggested she come back in March. She drove away.

From the Livestock Guardian Dog Facebook Group I’ve found that some people find they are having to move off their farms and they want to keep their Big White Dogs as pets and worry if it can work. I can speak to that. Owning an LGD as a “pet” (they’re never pets) means you just have a hairy, independent roommate of a different species to support 🙂 To live with one of these dogs, a person has to understand who they are and what they need. They don’t need to be run, they won’t like the dog park, they need a serious fence, they need something/someone to take care of, they respond to training that’s low-key, tolerant and cooperative. They learn from what their human does. Bear alerts me to cranes, hawks and hoofed animals because she’s seen that I stop to watch those things. She doesn’t bark or chase anything when we’re out there, but I think she would bark pretty fiercely if a threat appeared. She protects me if an animal seems to be charging me. I’ve had to learn to be somewhat LGD just as I had to adjust to being part Siberian Husky.

I know when I’m out there with Bear several things are going on, and they aren’t all human. In our time together I’ve learned to “be” with her. She hasn’t stopped being a livestock guardian dog just because she lives in a house and has a small yard. She’s still what she is. I’ve always given her as much of a livestock guardian roaming life as I can while keeping her safe. I LOVE being with her.

She’s also taught my mini-Aussie, who was a puppy when he came to live with us, a lot of LGD behavior. She’s trained him to live here with us.

Out at the Refuge she has her preferred routes and I have no idea why she prefers them. I believe it has to do with messages and scents she leaves and receives along those ways. One is a little nature observation loop that I’ve avoided all summer because it just has too many good hiding places for rattlesnakes.

One of Bear’s favorite trails

“Our” cattle were where we like them to be and “Bessie” was there. I called her name and she turned to look at me. Huh? I looked at her a long time and tried to figure out WHAT it is about her that makes her so much prettier than the other virtually identical cows in the pasture. It might be her eyelashes which you can see pretty well in this photo…

Bessie the Beautiful

As we walked along the road beside the fence, the little herd followed along. Bear loves them. She was as excited to see them in the distance as she is to see the kids on our way back from a neighborhood walk. These are now Bear’s cows.

I had a heart-to-heart with them, seeing as one is visibly pregnant. “Have a little girl,” I said. “Please. No more little boys. All of you, girls, from now on.”

The point was made that they had little to say about it and one of them mentioned, “Yeah, but what about the rancher and his family?” Truly unassailable bovine arguments and I nodded my assent. Still.

And the cranes kept flying over and the breeze kept blowing and Mt. Blanca offered her infinite benediction and I offered up my thanks.

Kids’ Art Class Update

As I headed to art “class,” the kids were already waiting in the alley. We had class outside today which was kind of funny considering this is the San Luis Valley which is ALWAYS windy and we were working with tissue paper. There were plenty of rocks around to hold stuff down and, godnose, we’re used to the wind. The whole time we were outside working, Bear heard us and barked. We heard her a block away.

We made ghosts. I showed them a finished one and asked them to tell me how I made it. Good strategy. The kids made a bunch, hung them all around, put glow-in-the-dark paint on the ghosts’ eyes. They’re going to tell me later if the ghosts’ eyes glow. “Do you want to stay for supper and wait to see if the ghosts’ eyes glow?” asked the little girl. Because we were outside, there was much running around, then we drew a haunted house.

My drawing is hanging in the little boy’s room. Finally got my gallery show.

The little girl threaded a needle for the first time. They got new snow boots. The little girl offered to come home with me and pick up Teddy’s toys from the back yard. The little boy told me to text his mom when Bear decides where she wants to take her walk today. Going for a walk with Bear and me is his best thing EVER.

I watch them and take in all the beautiful pictures of what they do for the scrapbook of wonder I keep in my mind.

Mighty Strange…

I had good time watching the town halls last night. Really, I wish I could have had two screens going at once (don’t have that kind of set up). There was so much about Trump’s performance that was hilarious. Savannah Guthrie was definitely a Mighty Girl.

“Savannah Guthrie: Why did you tweet out a conspiracy about Biden killing Navy Seals to cover up the fake death of Bin Laden?

Trump: “That was a retweet…”

Guthrie: “I don’t get that. You’re the president! You’re not like someone’s crazy uncle who can retweet whatever!”

There was more along those lines. I happened to tune in just as she was asking him about Q-Anon. She gave him an explanation of what Q-Anon is and he said, “I don’t know anything about Q-Anon.” She said, “I just told you.”

If that’s reality TV, I’ve been missing out.

On the OTHER side (channel) Joe was answering questions with great sincerity and often long-windedness but I know from my own life and self, when you’ve lived a while you really do have TOO MUCH to say. Some pundit made the point that Biden has the luxury (??) of talking about plans for the future and his record while 45 is compelled to defend himself.

It was fun watching 45 get pissed off, “Awright already! I condemn white supremacy!”

Well, that’s a little something…

If Empty Acreage Could Vote — Wait, it Can!

“Down the line” is a phrase I’ve never really understood except in context. Which line and where’s down? It’s a homely phrase that seems to have meat everything from “someday” to “the straight and narrow” to a row of posts with wire stretched between them. It also seems to me “that which you can expect in given circumstances.”

That would be a letter to the editor I read yesterday in the local paper and which I’ve just dug out of the recycling so I can refer to it in this post.

The news in my town’s paper references a spike in COVID-19 cases, a local graduate who’s been promoted to lieutenant colonel and a full page ad for the entire Republican panoply of candidates straight down the ballot. There is an unusual number of letters to the editor (usually there are none). One of the letters asks people to vote “No” on a proposition to abolish the electoral college.

The arguments are the usual ones, that the Electoral College makes elections more equal so that people in populated states don’t get the final say in running the country. To me, that’s illogical if theis is a nation “for the people and by the people” rather than a nation “by the land for the land.”

As I read it I thought, “Why should empty space get a vote?” The writer ends his brief diatribe with “And this, children, is WHY you have an electoral college. It’s a safety net so every vote counts.” THAT patronizing coda set my teeth on edge. As for the safety net that “every vote counts”?

Except the votes of all those people in the recently designated “blue” states.

I thought about that all evening. How does anyone know where his or her kids are going to end up living their lives? How does anyone know what kind of social services those kids will need down the line? Doesn’t it seem obvious to people that laws that improve schools in New Jersey might improve schools in the back of beyond or health care? Isn’t it obvious that a person in LA is a person just like the people out here in the so-called “fly over zones”? And, then there’s that oft’ harked upon Pledge of Allegiance that says stuff other than “under God,” stuff like “One nation, indivisible” implying that we are all in this together and need to look out for each other?

Never mind the monetary reality that taxes paid by people in the “blue” states’ support less populated states throughout the nation. That’s an aspect of “democracy” that I was surprised to learn back in 2010 when I was bowed down under California’s back-breaking taxes. At that point my research showed me that for every $1 in federal taxes paid by the average Californian, only ten cents remained in the state. The rest went to places like, well, Kentucky.

If the so-called “red states” want their voice to matter MORE they could maybe try communicating rather than what we have now, this tragic “us vs. them” noise, even in the House and Senate. That is the point of representatives, to present the case for, the reality of, the needs of the people in their states. But even at the state level that doesn’t happen in a state like mine with a megalopolitan area and vast emptiness AND an economy that relies on tourism there’s no easy answer. The inability or unwillingness of people to communicate to each other makes it all the more difficult to work out real problems like, well, here the big problem is water. The San Luis Valley has it; Denver wants it.

All this is the result of coming from a native Coloradan with deep roots in Montana who lived for 30 years in a very populated state. I’ve looked at this from both sides now…

So…rather than writing a response to that letter to the editor, I’ve written this blog post. 🙂 Thanks for listening.